She held her breath for his answer:
“You bet I don’t!”
The humor of such a question almost made him laugh. In his own mind he was saying, “Lily, and Love? Good Lord!”
Eleanor, putting her hand on his, said, in a whisper, “But we have no children. Do you mind—very much?”
“Great Scott! no. Don’t worry about that. That’s the last thing I think of! Now, when do you think you can start?” He spoke with wearied but determined gentleness.
She did not detect the weariness,—the gentleness made her so happy; he called her “Star”! He said he didn’t love anyone else! He said he didn’t mind because they had no children.... Oh, how dreadful for her to have had those shameful fears—and out in “their meadow,” too! It was sacrilege.... Aloud, she said she could be ready by the first of the week; “And you’ll stay with me? Can’t you take two weeks?” she entreated.
“Oh, I can’t afford that” he said; “but I guess I can manage one....”
Later that day, when she told Mrs. Newbolt—who had come home for a fortnight—what Maurice had planned for her, Eleanor’s happiness ebbed a little in the realization that he would be in town all by himself, “for a whole week! He’ll go off with the Mortons, I suppose,” she said, uneasily.
“Well,” said Mrs. Newbolt, with what was, for her, astonishing brevity, “why shouldn’t he? Don’t forget what my dear father said about cats: ’Open the door!’ Tell Maurice you want him to go off with the Mortons!”
Of course Eleanor told him nothing of the sort. But she was obliged, at Green Hill, to watch him “going off” with Edith. “I should think,” she said once, “that Mrs. Houghton wouldn’t want her to be wandering about with you, alone.”
“Perhaps Mrs. Houghton doesn’t consider me a desperate character,” he said, dryly; “and, besides, Johnny Bennett chaperones us!”
Sometimes not even John’s presence satisfied Eleanor, and she chaperoned her husband herself. She did it very openly one day toward the end of Maurice’s little vacation. Henry Houghton had said, “Look here; you boys” (of course Johnny was hanging around) “must earn your salt! We’ve got to get the second mowing in before night. I’ll present you both with a pitchfork.”
To which Maurice replied, “Bully!”
“Me, too!” said Edith.
And John said, “I’ll be glad to be of any assistance, sir.”
("How their answers sum those youngsters up!”
Mr. Houghton told his
Eleanor, dogging Maurice to a deserted spot on the porch, said, uneasily, “Don’t do it, darling; it’s too hot for you.”
But he only laughed, and started off with the other two to work all morning in the splendid heat and dazzle of the field. “Skeezics, don’t be so strenuous!” he commanded, once; and Johnny was really nervous:
“It’s too hot for you, Buster.”